Chiva-Som, Thailand – spa review

The legend gets a super-charged revamp

This is the undisputed grande dame of spas. Over the past 25 years, it has won more awards than its rivals have had hot, cold or carb-free dinners. The retreat will no doubt need to extend its trophy cabinet even further later this year once its phased £18 million renovation is finally completed.

Arguably, though, the most exciting changes have already been unveiled. In November 2019 the fitness centre was expanded, with an on-trend functional gym and workout spaces with floors as springy as a ballroom. There is also a new Re-functional Studio, with equipment to measure muscles and mobility, and a wireless EMS system for exercise routines that are gentle on the joints. It’s a clever move because, not only does this fresh direction appeal to the spa’s loyal fanbase of baby boomers anxious to stay active for as long as possible, it also plays to one of Chiva-Som’s greatest strengths: the excellent physiotherapy department.

Chiva SomDaniel Ward

Its team of laser-eyed experts regularly wave a magic wand over the injuries of guests who had despaired over whether they will ever be pain-free again. The personal trainers are equally impressive, squeezing every last ounce of energy from you in classes that run from high-intensity metafit to the ingenious gyrokinesis, a combination of yoga, dance, Tai Chi and gymnastics that works wonders on bad posture.

The atmosphere switches to zen elsewhere. Before the refurb, nobody would linger in the Orchid Lounge, which had all the allure of a sixth-form common room. Reimagined by master of understated elegance Ed Tuttle and his team, it has become a stylish space of mosaic mirror panels, white orchids and low sofas in soft-wash silks. The last of the 54 bedrooms have also been transformed into light, contemporary havens, with sustainable teak and bamboo finishes.

Thankfully, some things haven’t changed. The food is still exceptionally good. Initially you might sulk at the thought of just 1,200 calories a day but, with wonderfully rich raw chocolate mousse, Moroccan-spiced salmon and homegrown organic vegetables on the menu, you’ll soon cheer up, particularly when you jump on the scales. Service is stellar, as is the communication between departments – team members are always bang up-to-date on your progress – and, most commendably, management really listen; despite having installed a hypoxic training chamber at considerable expense a couple of years ago, after unfavourable guest feedback it was ripped out.

Chiva SomLucas Allen

In 2020, the seafront restaurant and spa zone were the lasts areas to have their facelifts. Innovation has always been central to Chiva-Som’s ethos and one of the reasons why so many return (the current record is 90 visits), so expect interesting additions. And with the final stage of future-proofing now complete, we cannot wait to see what's next.

Healing Holidays (; +44 20 7843 3592) can arrange a seven-night stay from £3,659 per person sharing, including transfers, full board accommodation, daily fitness activities, a daily massage and a cash credit to spend on extra treatments.

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